After vandalism involving swastikas was discovered on a site near a Jewish synagogue, organizations on campus were quick to respond and condemn the act.
The vandalism, which the Madison Police Department said occurred late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning, involved paintings of swastikas along with messages that read “TRUMP RULES” and “ANTIFA SUCKS” on a memorial for international volunteers in the 1930s Spanish Civil War.
The memorial lies close to the Gates of Heaven Synagogue, a Jewish place of worship. Due to the anti-Semitic history associated with swastikas and the proximity of the vandalism to a synagogue, the Madison Police Department has kept the Jewish Federation of Madison updated as their investigation of the crime continues.
Greg Steinberger, a spokesman with the University of Wisconsin Hillel Foundation, said in an email to The Badger Herald that given the approaching Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah the act is “especially painful.” Steinberger said he hopes the community can make efforts to move past this “act of bigotry.”
“We are saddened to learn about this cowardly incident,” Steinberger said. “During these days we, as a community, reflect on who we are, where we have been and where we are headed as all in our community make a commitment to make the world a better place.”
The original Gates of Heaven synagogue, built in 1856, is the eighth oldest synagogue in the United States, Steinberger said.
The Shaarei Shamayim Jewish congregation of Madison, which now uses a different synagogue, still uses the original building to celebrate high holy days, Steinberger said.
“The UW Hillel Foundation has a long history of supporting the community that meets to celebrate the Jewish holidays in that historic space,” Steinberger said.
Steinberger also reaffirmed Hillel’s commitment “to fight hatred, racism and xenophobia.”
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Though President Donald Trump was praised in the vandalism, College Republicans Chairman Jake Lubenow condemned the graffiti, saying that it doesn’t contribute to a “welcoming environment or productive discourse” on campus.
“The College Republicans absolutely condemn vandalism in any respect, even when trying to function as speech,” Lubenow said in an email to The Badger Herald. “Productive discourse is ultimately the goal of our organization and this is not in the slightest bit productive.”
Jewish students have been targeted by both white supremacists on the far-right and Antifa activists on the far- left, and this vandalism perpetuates that “horrific treatment of Jewish students on our campus,” Lubenow said.
In a joint statement by Associated Students of Madison Chair Katrina Morrison, Equity and Inclusion Chair Alexandra Hader, Vice Chair William Welsh, and Outreach Director Yogev Ben-Yitschak, ASM called the vandalism “deeply disturbing.”
“The Associated Students of Madison stands in strong opposition to such discrimination, and asks that students, staff, faculty, and other campus units alike stand up against bigotry,” ASM said. “Intimidation directed at specific communities is wholly unacceptable. We must be united, and we must hold true the values of equity and inclusion for all.”
Shortly after its discovery, the vandalism was removed from the site.